Chrome and Chromium are similar browsers in many ways. Because Chromium provides the majority of the code that Chrome is based on, it can be difficult to distinguish them at times. However, there are a few minor differences that separate them. To clear up the confusion, we’re pitting them against each other in this Chromium vs. Chrome browser battle.
Due to their similarities, both browsers received very close scores in most categories. Although Chrome is certainly more popular, this isn’t surprising, as Chromium is primarily intended for developers to test their websites or software, rather than for wide public use.
While we’ll be focusing on how the browsers compare to each other directly in this article, you can also check out our Chrome review and Chromium review for a more in-depth analysis of each browser.
Setting Up a Fight: Chromium vs. Chrome
Like in our other browser battles, we’ll be running the competitors through five separate rounds, awarding one point to the winner of each. These rounds are, in order: features, ease of use, performance, security and privacy.
The first browser to get three points wins, but we will continue through all five rounds to give you the full picture, even if one of them achieves victory early.
We’ll begin with features, where we’ll be looking at things like cross-device synchronization, available extensions and the mobile version of each browser, as well as other minor elements.
Chromium has access to the same huge extension library that Chrome does. In addition, you can download extensions that aren’t from the Chrome Web Store, which provides you with an even wider field of options.
While it’s possible to integrate Google services — like sync, translate and others — it requires you to manually acquire the relevant API keys, which can be a lengthy process. The browser also lacks licensed media codecs, like “.aac,” “.h264” and “.mp3,” so you’ll have to install these manually if you want to use the browser for services like Netflix.
Moreover, there’s also no support for Adobe Flash, but this isn’t a huge deal as the technology has been on the way out for years now, anyway. In terms of minor features, Chromium comes with a built-in basic PDF reader and the ability to do a reverse image search directly by right clicking an image.
Because the browsers share their extension library, Chrome has access to almost the same number of third-party extensions as Chromium, with the caveat that you’re limited to ones that you can get on the Chrome Web Store.
Chrome is also well integrated with various Google services, such as syncing between devices and your account. Another service is Google Translate, which lets you easily translate any web page in 103 different languages with a decent degree of accuracy, compared to other translation services.
Like Chromium, Chrome includes the same basic PDF reader and the option to directly reverse search for an image.
Round One Thoughts
As you can see, there’s very little separating Chrome and Chromium in terms of features. They both have access to a huge number of extensions and have the exact same minor and mobile features.
Chrome is much better integrated with other Google services, though, with support for syncing and Google Translate built in, whereas Chromium requires you to add API keys for this.
Another big difference between the two is the absence of licensed media codecs and Flash support in Chromium, which necessitates an extra step during installation if you want to use the browser for any kind of streaming service.
These factors give Chrome a slight edge and hands it the victory in this round, despite limitation on where you can install an extension from.
2. Ease of Use
Now that we’ve covered the differences in features between the two browsers, it’s time to move on to ease of use. Here we’ll examine the interfaces of each browser, how comfortable they are to install, use and update, as well as tab management and minor convenience features.
Chromium sports a clean and easy-to-understand UI. Since the browser is the basis for many others, like Opera or Brave (read our Opera review and Brave review), most people will find it very familiar. You can mute and pin tabs, and although there’s no tab scrolling, they’re still clearly separated and easy to identify.
Although the browser is available on all three major desktop platforms (Windows, macOS and Linux), there is no iOS version, which limits Chromium on mobile to only Android devices. This is a big blow to the browser’s ease of use, as being able to seamlessly continue your browsing session across devices is pretty much a standard feature these days.
Furthermore, the installation process for Chromium is needlessly complicated and clunky. It is made even worse if you want to add extra functionality, like Google services or licensed media codecs. Updating is also a pain, as the easiest way to upgrade to a newer version is to simply delete the browser and reinstall from scratch.
Like Chromium, Chrome has an interface that’s well-designed and easy to use, as the basic UI is identical between the two. Chrome is also available on every major platform both on desktop and mobile, and you can easily send tabs between devices or even see what tabs are currently open on another device.
Tab management on desktop is also the same, as there’s no horizontal tab scrolling. You also have the option to mute individual tabs or pin them so that they can’t be closed accidentally.
Round Two Thoughts
While the actual user experience is very similar for the two browsers, the clunky installation process is a serious hit to Chromium’s ease of use. This is compounded by the lack of an iOS version, requiring you to use Chrome, anyway, if you use an iPhone and want to sync your browsing data.
On top of all this, Chrome makes it easy to send tabs to different devices, which is something completely missing in Chromium. With this in mind, Chrome easily wins this round, solidifying its lead and bringing the score to 2-0 in its favor.
With Chrome on the verge of victory, it’s time to move on to performance. This means evaluating each browser’s speed, resource consumption and data usage, as well as any potential stability issues.
Chromium is incredibly fast, in fact, faster than any other browser we’ve tested, with the exception of Vivaldi (read our Vivaldi review), which has similar speed.
Resource consumption is very high, though, so if you like to leave a lot of your tabs open at the same time, you’ll quickly run out of memory. Additionally, there is nothing in the way of data-saving features included in the browser.
When it comes to performance, the real nail in Chromium’s coffin is stability. Because Chromium is intended for developers and doesn’t receive anywhere near the amount of user testing that Chrome does, the most recent version can often include bugs, as well as varying levels of performance and occasional security holes.
Chrome, though not as fast as Chromium, is also among the fastest browsers we’ve tested, both on mobile and desktop. RAM consumption is once again high, which is a problem shared by all browsers based on Chromium.
There are also no features intended to limit data usage, so users with limited bandwidth might want to look elsewhere for alternatives, like Puffin (read our Puffin review).
Round Three Thoughts
This was another very close round between the two browsers. Although Chromium is slightly faster than its more popular brother, it also carries the constant risk of stability issues because it’s not intended for wide public use. This means it’s far more likely to contain various bugs and flaws.
Because of that, Chrome wins in this category, despite its somewhat slower speed, which brings the score up to 3-0. This gives Chrome the overall victory, before we even get to our two final categories. We’ll keep going though, as it’s worth examining how they compare in security and privacy, despite the victor already being decided.
In this round, we’ll be covering how well each browser does with security. Important factors here include safe browsing databases, warnings for HTTP connections, update frequency, as well as ad and pop-up blockers.
Chromium uses Google Safe Browsing to protect you from malicious websites, malware and phishing schemes. Additionally, the browser gives you a clear warning whenever you’re connecting to a website over an unsecure HTTP connection.
Pop-ups are blocked by default, and although there’s no built-in ad-blocker, there are numerous extensions available for this purpose.
The biggest flaw in Chromium’s security is the lack of automatic updates. Although the update frequency is good, users have to manually uninstall the browser and download the newest version from scratch if they want to stay on the most recent version.
This undoubtedly leaves a lot of users vulnerable to various security exploits, something you don’t have to concern yourself with as much on other browsers that receive automatic updates.
Unsurprisingly, Chrome also uses Google Safe Browsing for protection. You get the same warning as in Chromium when browsing on an unsecure connection, and pop-ups are blocked by default. Finding an ad-blocker to install is easy, as there are countless options to choose from in the Chrome Web Store.
Update frequency is also excellent, as noted in our article about the most secure web browser options. This is important because developers are in a constant struggle with cybercrime, making it important to plug any security holes as quickly as possible.
Round Four Thoughts
Both Chromium and Chrome do well with security. They make use of Google Safe Browsing to protect users from malicious websites and have a clear warning when you’re browsing on an unsecure connection.
The update frequency is also great, with both browsers receiving a new update every few days. Although neither one comes with a built-in adblocker, this is easy to find as an extension, and they both block pop-ups by default.
The main difference between the two in this category is automatic updates. While Chrome downloads and installs new updates without any manual input required from the user, this is not something that’s included in Chromium.
This means that users can quickly find themselves on an outdated version, leaving them incredibly vulnerable to various kinds of cyberattacks. Due to this, Chrome snatches another win, bringing the score to 4-0.
In our final round, we’re taking a look at the privacy of the two browsers. This includes services that record your browsing history, privacy scandals, data collection policies and what exactly your data is used for once it has been collected.
While Chromium is open source, the standard version of the browser still contains plenty of callbacks to Google. Features like auto completing URLs and search suggestions are also included and enabled by default, both of which allow Google to collect and analyze your browsing and search history.
However, there is a version of Chromium without all these features that’s also stripped off the various hidden callbacks to the mother company. This is called “ungoogled” Chromium and is maintained by volunteers in an effort to provide a version with better privacy than both Chrome and standard Chromium.
Although you can turn off services like URL auto-completion and search suggestions, it’s difficult to trust Google when it says that this stops it from seeing your browsing history.
This is because the company has been implicated in several privacy scandals, like cooperating with NSA’s PRISM program and continuing to collect location data, despite users denying them permission.
Round Five Thoughts
Services like auto completion of URLs and optimized search suggestions are enabled by default in both browsers, which gives Google access to your entire browsing and search history.
Luckily, you can delete the data Google has saved on you by following our guide on how to erase your Google history. Since Google is so untrustworthy when it comes to this issue, though, we also recommend reading our anonymous browsing guide to ensure you’re flying under the radar.
Despite the similarities, the existence of an “ungoogled” version of Chromium gives it an edge. While this isn’t the standard version of the browser, it nonetheless gives you the option to strip out all the various callbacks to Google, solving many of the privacy concerns inherent to the company’s products.
Because of this, Chromium finally manages to score a point, leaving us with a final score of 4-1.
6. Final Thoughts
While it was a close contest in the features and performance rounds, Chrome still managed an easy victory by narrowly winning both of them and also beating Chromium in both ease of use and security.
It looked like Chrome might pull off a clean sweep, but its terrible privacy prevented it from doing so and allowed Chromium to score a point just as the battle was coming to a close.
Winner: Google Chrome
Although Chrome is the undisputed winner of this comparison, you can check out our Firefox vs. Google Chrome battle for a closer contest.
For now, we’d like to know what you think of Chrome and Chromium. Do you agree that Chrome deserves the win, or is the existence of “ungoogled” Chromium and its superior privacy enough to brush aside the former’s narrow victories in other categories? Let us know in the comments below. As always, thank you for reading.